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The Missing Dollar

Here's a little arithmetic problem for you:

Three brothers check into a hotel and rent one room. The hotel clerk informs them that the room is $30 for the night, so each brother chips in $10 and they pay for the room in advance.

About an hour later, the clerk discovers that he charged the brothers the weekend rate of $30 instead of the weekday rate of $25. He gives the bellhop five $1 bills to return to the brothers. On the way up to the room, the bellhop realizes that five dollars can't be divided evenly among three brothers, so he only refunds them $3 and pockets the other $2.

Each brother originally paid $10 for his share of the $30 room and received a $1 refund from the bellhop. That means they ended up each spending $9 ($10 minus $ 1) on the room - or $27 ($9 times 3). Add in the $2 the bellhop kept for a total of $29.

What happened to the extra dollar, and who lost what.

Here's the answer:

The extra dollar isn't lost. After the bellhop refunded $1 to each brother, they ended up paying a total of $27 for the room ($9 each). The hotel received $25 after it refunded the $5 the bellhop was supposed to deliver. The bellhop pocketed $2 of the brothers' money. Add his $2 to the $25 the hotel received, and you get $27, the same amount that was paid by the three brothers. In other words, the money out - what the brothers paid - equals the money in - what both the hotel and bellhop received.

What makes this problem confusing is the way it's explained. The dollar seems to disappear when adding part of what was received (the $2 kept by the bellhop) to what was paid ($27). That's adding apples and oranges - and guarantees a wrong result.

And who lost what? The bellhop lost his job when the three brothers stopped by the front desk to thank the clerk for sending up their $3 refund!

If you're still confused about the arithmetic, don't worry. Unless you're planning to become an accountant, it's okay to be confused. It's not okay. however., to be confused about the behavior of the bellhop. Unfortunately, many people today are very confused about issues of right and wrong. We live in a society that has made ethics a matter of personal preference. Surveys show that a majority of youth see nothing wrong with cheating on exams, and a majority of adults see nothing wrong with cheating on income taxes.

But Christians shouldn't have any confusion about such matters. We have the Word of God to guide us in our moral and ethical decision-making. Contrary to the world's way of thinking, right and wrong is not something that you decide. All you have to decide is whether you're willing to obey.

"Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. " James 4:17

For His Cause,
Tim Woodward